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During a sunny day at the Jeongseon Alpine Center in South Korea, the crowd cheered patiently waiting for the first women to drop into the Downhill course. No run was more anticipated than Lindsey Vonn’s, the most decorated female skier of all time, and, as she said in a tweet before the race, likely to be her final Olympic Downhill.
In a stacked field of international talent, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein set the pace early, finishing a time of 1:39.85. Her lead didn’t last long, however, when Sofia Goggia of Italy took the lead by 0.63 seconds. Despite a nearly flawless line, Vonn was unable to catch Goggia, and finished with the second fastest time, 0.47 seconds behind the Italian. When the other strong Italians crashed and Swiss favorite Lara Gut missed a gate, it appeared Vonn was set for silver until a young Norwegian, Ragnhild Mowinckel, snuck into second place, only 0.06 seconds behind Goggia. Mowinckel’s run put Vonn in third and knocked Weirather off the podium, which would be the final result.
“I thought I skied really well,” said Vonn after the race. “I thought I executed the line perfectly, maybe I was just a little bit too clean, too precise with the line. Maybe I should have let the skis run a little bit more. But, I didn’t make any mistakes, I didn’t ski stiff, I wasn’t nervous. I laid it all on the line, and that’s all I can do.”
Vonn’s Team USA teammate Alice McKennis, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., had a phenomenal run which was good enough for fifth place overall. She was only 1.02 seconds back from Goggia in her best Olympic performance to date.
“I was shocked! I haven’t seen a result that high for a long time,” McKennis told SKI Magazine. “It was a good run to throw down on for such a big day. I’m really thrilled.”
Rounding out the Team American standings, Breezy Johnson of Jackson Hole, Wyo., finished in seventh, and Laurenne Ross of Bend, Ore., finished in 15th.
With three team members in the top ten, Team USA speed coach Chip White is excited about the future. “We have a speed team,” he said to SKI Magazine when asked about the future. “This team is stunning in my mind, and I’m very lucky to work with such a talented group of ladies.”
Tomorrow in PyeongChang is a big day for Olympic skiing with Vonn joining Giant Slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin and American teammate Alice Merryweather in the Women’s Alpine Combined. Team USA will also be well represented in the men’s halfpipe competition, having secured the top three qualifying spots for the final. Plus, Marcel Hirscher of Austria will be seeking his third gold medal of the games in the men’s slalom.